GDC 2012 Indie Round-up: Johann Sebastian Joust, The Bridge, Antichamber, GIRP

 

The Independent Games Festival is probably the best part of GDC. It’s a treat every year to see the creativity and cleverness of up-and-coming designers, though it can be hard to avoid the temptation to spend all day playing indie games, instead of attending to more serious journalistic duties. Here are Game Front’s five favorites from this year, which is not to say that the others aren’t awesome and well worth playing.

Johann Sebastian Joust

Dedicated readers might remember my coverage of B.U.T.T.O.N., a hilarious party game from Copenhagen-based devs Die Gute Fabrik. The prankster Danes are at it again, this time with a game which is devastatingly simple as it is addictively fun.

To play Johann Sebastian Joust, you need an open space and a bunch of PlayStation Move controllers. Everybody gets a controller. The rules are simple: if your controller moves too fast, you lose. Players mill about, holding their controller in one hand, while trying to smack, shove, jostle, and otherwise harass the other players with the other, trying to produce the fatal jerk of an opponent’s arm that will lead to elimination. The last person with a controller bulb that hasn’t turned red is the winner.

There’s only one catch: as the game’s title suggests, players will have to listen closely to the music, selections of Bach’s “Brandenburg Concertos” that speed up and slow down at random. When the music is slow, the controllers are extremely sensitive to movement; when fast, less so. A sudden increase in tempo can lead to a burst of offensive tactics, or the salvation of a player who looks destined for elimination.

Die Gute Fabrik had games going throughout the expo, in a wide-open space conveniently located on the route to one of the expo floor’s main bathrooms. Players of all genders and ages tried their mettle in the Joust, experimenting with a variety of tactics and approaches. The only constant was hilarity. Players circled each other warily, looking for an opening. Over-eager attackers looked down in dismay to find that they had eliminated themselves by going after an opponent too vigorously. Underhanded rogues hid controllers behind their backs, suddenly striking unwary adversaries.

The game runs easily on a Mac laptop, and can therefore be played almost anywhere (see video below). It might even be better in the dark. In fact, the only limitation on this wonderful, infinitely replayable party game is the limits of your own imagination. No release date has been announced.

 

The Bridge

 

Whimsical, artsy puzzle games are nothing new, but The Bridge won me over with its beautiful, lithographic art-style and inventive mechanics. The game’s protagonist wakes up in a dream-like gray world that looks like a combination of an architectural plan and an M.C. Escher drawing. Players will move from board to board by rotating the entire world around a central axis, accomplished using the right and left triggers on a gamepad.

Clever, physics-based puzzles stand in the hero’s way, including many that involve a large, malevolent ball that kills on contact. Rotating the gameworld in order to move the ball around made The Bridge feel sort of like a marble maze at times, though the game’s designers assured me that this was just coincidence. The game also includes mechanics which allow players to reverse time and invert gravity, though these didn’t come into play much during the demo available at GDC.

Creators Ty Taylor and Mario Castaneda met at Case Western Reserve University, and their game was an important component in degrees each completed in computer science and and visual art, respectively. No release date has yet been set, but those interested should sign up for their mailing list.

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